Case study: Creating a non-alcoholic movement with Naked Life
Naked Life is Australia’s number one non-alcoholic drinks brand.
More specifically, Naked Life specializes in delivering the full flavored experience of your favorite cocktails while stripping down and laying bare the booze, creating non-alcoholic versions in a can, without the sugar or calories.
If you’re new to the concept, it may sound strange – what is a cocktail without alcohol? But for those who want to decrease their booze intake for a variety of reasons (be it their health, being the designated driver, or being pregnant) a non-alcoholic alternative is a popular choice.
Clearly, Australian consumers think so too. Tracksuit’s data shows that 9.4 million people (47% of the population) have purchased a non-alcoholic spirit or drink in the last three months.
Naked Life was founded in 2016 by David Andrew and has become a force of nature. It was one of the first to market in Australia in what is a fairly new category globally – non-alcoholic, ready-to-drink beverages.
The brand got its big break at the end of 2020 when Woolworths approached the team and said, “We like what you’re doing, and we’d like to trial your drinks in five stores.” It was the retail giant’s first step into the non-alcoholic drinks space. The drinks all sold out in the five stores, and Woolworths wanted it stocked in another 50 stores, then another 800 after that – and Naked Life’s growth took off.
Naked Life was named Australia’s fastest growing company by the Australian Financial Review in 2022 and its cocktails are now stocked in many stores down under (in both Australia and New Zealand) including major supermarket chains Woolies and Coles.
“The key thing is we’re about giving people alcohol freedom,” Group General Manager Matt Kowal says, describing it as like the flexitarianism food movement, but for alcohol.
“Many people still live in the black and white of being a drinker or non-drinker, but times are changing fast. We give people a level of empowerment to go, ‘I'm choosing not to drink’ without compromising on taste or their celebration moment, and step across that void.”
He says Naked Life’s drinks are designed to either be an alternative to an alcoholic tipple, or in many cases, used by people to pace themselves (known as the “wedge” – a drink to have between or before drinks to reduce overall intake), to better drink responsibly. Either way, it provides people with options to customize their experience.
Since November 2022, Naked Life’s consideration in Australia has grown 5% (471K) and usage has grown 4% (377K). Naked Life is also a category leader when it comes to the statements “Is a brand I trust”, “Uses premium crafted ingredients” and “Delivers uncompromising taste”.
With non-alcoholic flavors like Italian Spritz, Margarita and Mojito that taste very close to the real deal, it’s no wonder Naked Life is resonating with consumers on these statements.
Matt says the flavor of their beverage is something the team has worked really hard to get right, because without a delicious product, there’s no way they would get consumer buy-in for a fairly new concept.
“In a space where people are already often stretching their knowledge or trust, you often only get one chance to win them over so it’s got to count. We’ve got an internal saying when it comes to product tasting and what goes to market. If it’s not a f*** yeah, it’s a f*** no,” he says.
How brand tracking helps grow buyer and investor confidence 📈
Matt says the business is using Tracksuit’s brand tracking for multiple use cases, from conversations with investors to buyers.
“When we start talking with investors and they want to take part in the business, we want to give them the confidence in not only our sales performance, but the protection that comes with our brand and understanding that we're continuing to grow,” Matt says.
“Also, as we take a step out of retail into different streams and channels of sales, like independent traders or on-premise, there's a lot that are still so new to the non-alcoholic drinks category and don't know much about its growth.
“What we need to be able to do is take them on that journey and give them confidence. We can use data from Tracksuit to show, ‘Here’s how many people are aware of it and have confidence in it’ and that people are including it in their basket day-to-day, no matter where they find it.”
He says Naked Life doesn’t just look at Tracksuit’s data in isolation – it’s cross referenced with other data sources like their sales data or customer surveys to get even richer insights.
Why brand is important for emerging categories 🍸
The rise in popularity of non-alcoholic drinks is being driven by health and wellness trends, younger generations having a different opinion on drinking and cultural and societal shifts (for a deeper dive, check out our guide on what’s driving the growth of the non-alcoholic beverages).
The first brand to market globally in this space was Seedlip, a British company founded by former luxury brand designer Ben Branson that launched plant-based liquor substitutes for spirits in 2014.
Seedlip recently sold a majority stake to multinational alcohol company Diageo (owner of the Johnny Walker, Guinness and Smirnoff brands). It’s pitched as a premium, top-shelf product in this space, while a four pack of Naked Life cans usually retails for around $15 AUD.
Matt says even though Naked Life is a market leader in Australia, it’s important to understand the brand in the context of an emerging category like non-alcoholic drinks.
“As we stretch our brand out of its comfort zone with new innovations, we need to make sure that we keep trending the right way with statements and people's opinions of those really key elements need to remain high,” he says.
“Or if something is a bit lower than where we want it, we need to ask, how do we test and then affect that?”
Brand tracking is a great solution for keeping an eye on this, he says.
While there are several players in Australia claiming their stake in this category, Matt says Naked Life has made sure they’ve got their cocktail of brand ingredients right, from price to branding.
“The drink needs to be based around a high quality taste, the price needs to be at a place that’s accessible to most people, there needs to be a design which ties in the brand and makes people feel comfortable with the moment they're drinking it in,” he says.
“We're still in a lovely growth phase for the category. But we're also in that space where if you mentioned the idea of a non-alcoholic cocktail, it’s still polarized, with half of the group going, ‘Why?’ The why is so individual to people.
“The brand, taste and other elements need to give people that little bit of confidence to take a risk. We constantly find that once people take that step, and take that sip, they really get that ‘aha’ moment and know how non-alcs can fit into their lives. ”
We’re so excited to watch where Naked Life’s growth trajectory goes next – watch this space!